Prescott must pro­duce to keep Romo out

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

When you play sports’ most-dis­sected po­si­tion for Amer­ica’s most-dis­cussed team and the NFL’s most-di­ag­nosed owner, main­tain­ing the proper per­spec­tive is es­sen­tial to your men­tal health. The need is greater when you’re a rookie and your backup is an elite, 13-year vet­eran who’s healthy and ready to play.

Dak Prescott should’ve seen this com­ing. It doesn’t mat­ter that the Dal­las Cow­boys were on an 11-game win­ning streak en­ter­ing Sun­day’s 10-7 loss against the New York Giants. It doesn’t mat­ter that be­fore Sun­day he had thrown only two in­ter­cep­tions against 19 touch­downs in 358 pass at­tempts. It doesn’t mat­ter that he’s a lead­ing can­di­date for Rookie of the Year and also will garner votes for Most Valu­able Player.

As soon as Prescott strug­gled through a rough out­ing and ac­tu­ally re­sem­bled a firstyear, fourth-round draft pick, there would be a ques­tion about giv­ing Tony Romo some play­ing time.

It’s fair to ask, just like it was fair to pon­der if Prescott should keep the job when Romo was cleared to play in Week 11. The an­swer then, right­fully so, was “yes.” Romo said so him­self in a classy state­ment, con­ced­ing that Prescott “earned the right to be our quar­ter­back.”

How­ever, that doesn’t mean Prescott should keep the job, re­gard­less of re­sults.

Even though he wasn’t great in ev­ery game, the Cow­boys hadn’t lost since the sea­son opener against the

Giants. Prescott was aw­ful in the re­match, com­plet­ing just 17 of 37 passes for 165 yards and two in­ter­cep­tions. Whether it was New York’s de­fense or sim­ply an off-night, Prescott was com­pletely in­ef­fec­tive. A re­lief ap­pear­ance by Romo seemed rea­son­able.

“No,” Dal­las coach Ja­son Gar­rett told re­porters Sun­day when asked if he con­sid­ered the move. “We feel good about Dak Prescott play­ing quar­ter­back for us right now.”

The NFL couldn’t be happier. The Cow­boys’ po­ten­tial quar­ter­back con­tro­versy is sim­mer­ing in the midst of a stretch when “Amer­ica’s Team” is earn­ing its nick­name. Dal­las’ next two games will be in prime time — against Tampa Bay Sun­day night and the Detroit Lions on Mon­day, Dec. 26. — mark­ing five con­sec­u­tive weeks of play­ing in the na­tional spot­light.

It’s not that the suits at NFL head­quar­ters or their broad­cast part­ners want Prescott to floun­der. One of the league’s best sto­ries this sea­son, along with fel­low rookie Ezekiel El­liott, Prescott has helped Dal­las re­bound from a 4-12 record last sea­son. The Cow­boys’ suc­cess — like the Yan­kees in base­ball and the Lak­ers in bas­ket­ball — is good for busi­ness.

But drama sells, too, and the loss against New York high­lighted Prescott’s min­is­lump. It’s his third con­sec­u­tive game with less than 200 passing yards passing; he has thrown just one touch­down in each of those three games.

Those are Te­bowian num­bers and there’s no doubt that Romo eas­ily could ex­ceed them.

The idea that Romo might play if Prescott’s grow­ing pains con­tinue is an in­trigu­ing pos­si­bil­ity. Gar­rett likely is loath to open that door, re­al­iz­ing that it leads to more ques­tions: Is Prescott the team’s best QB? How much time should Romo get? Would Prescott’s con­fi­dence be shaken? Does Romo start if he plays well in re­lief?

Once you go Romo, can you ever go Dak?

Like Gar­rett, Cow­boys owner/GM Jerry Jones doesn’t want to go there.

“No, no, no, no, no, it does not,” Jones told re­porters Sun­day when asked if Prescott’s per­for­mance changed any­thing. “He’s got 13 NFL ball­games at a high level un­der his belt and what’s he got, four in­ter­cep­tions now? I feel good about our quar­ter­back and I like where we are at the quar­ter­back po­si­tion.”

The Cow­boys have ev­ery rea­son to feel good about Prescott’s long-term prog­no­sis and Romo’s avail­abil­ity as a backup who could start for three­quar­ters of the league. I was in full agree­ment that con­tin­u­ing to play Prescott was the pru­dent move af­ter Romo re­cov­ered from a bro­ken bone in his back.

How­ever, the Cow­boys are in a unique sit­u­a­tion, plac­ing them well beyond the con­fines of con­ven­tional think­ing.

Prescott de­serves an­other start, but Dal­las should em­brace an in-game change if a spark is needed.

In­sert­ing Romo in that in­stance could ac­com­plish a cou­ple of worth­while ob­jec­tives be­sides ig­nit­ing a sput­ter­ing of­fense. He could knock off rust af­ter play­ing just four games since 2014, in­creas­ing his pre­pared­ness if he’s forced into ac­tion by a Prescott in­jury. Romo also could re-estab­lish him­self as one of the league’s best, in­creas­ing his mar­ket value if the Cow­boys elect to trade him in the off­sea­son.

For all that Prescott has ac­com­plished in an ex­tra­or­di­nary rookie sea­son, he’s not on the level of, say, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Those fu­ture Hall-of-Famers could strug­gle for eight games and de­serve to start the next eight. Be­sides, nei­ther of them has a proven All-Pro serv­ing as un­der­study.

The Cow­boys have rolled to 11-2 with Prescott but he ar­guably has hit the rookie wall. It hap­pens. He’s still the quar­ter­back of the fu­ture. That fact won’t change if Dal­las turns to its for­mer fran­chise QB for a jolt, pur­su­ing its first Su­per Bowl ti­tle since 1995.

Re­sults should de­ter­mine whether Romo re­mains a by­stander or plays an in­te­gral role.

But Gar­rett and Jones shouldn’t fear choos­ing the lat­ter if it im­proves the Cow­boys’ chances of win­ning.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Dal­las Cow­boys said quar­ter­back Dak Prescott will con­tinue to be the starter de­spite his re­cent strug­gles.

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